Picks and Pans Review: Dylan & the Dead

updated 03/13/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/13/1989 01:00AM

Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead

Really now, how small a world can it be? Consider how long it took for these two '60s musical legends to hook up. The resulting 1987 summer stadium tour, much ballyhooed, was a career booster shot for both. Exciting? Well, you really had to be there. Fans of Dylan and the Dead, both factions unnervingly loyal, no doubt were thrilled. This record leaves the rest of us wondering why. Dylan gives it the old school try, but he still sounds remote. The song selections, all Dylan compositions, are unexpected. (Jeez: "Joey" from the 1975 Desire LP! What brought that up?) Dylan's previous live albums—and there have been many—have usually offered radical reinterpretations of his songs, but that's not true on this record. Dylan's vintage work suffers most. There's a washed-out version of "I Want You." The Dead are painfully ragged backing up "Queen Jane, Approximately." Better are lively readings of the mid-era Dylan tunes, "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." The weakest link in Bob's support group is the Dead's drumming duo of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. It's hard to believe two percussionists together can pack so precious little wallop. The strongest link is the guitar tandem of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. They motor along smoothly and patiently, at least until Garcia takes off on one of his patented solos like a wasp that has just been released from confinement in ajar. All the principals involved seem remarkably casual about this collaboration. Then again, when you've weathered as much as these '60s survivors, how could you be anything else? (Columbia)

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